Tuesday, January 22, 2008

"Watcha Lookin' At? You Don't Know Me Like That?

This past weekend, several of us, including, and completely limited to, me, Jester, Ari, Ashcraft, Tron, Magdog, and Tron's friend Derrick, went up to Crystal Mountain in northern Michigan (not the UP) to go skiing. Tron's family has a condo there, and he tries his damnedest to get a group together to go up there every year.
Jester, Ari, and I left after work on Friday. Our drive up there can only be described as an utter catastrophe. According to Google maps, the drive was a little over 300 miles, which should have taken about 5 hours. Things started out ominously when it took us 20 minutes to exit the parking garage. After a nice first hour and a half, we stopped at a Culver's in northwest Indiana. Our arrogance was palpable, as our order consisted of two breaded tenderloin sandwiches, a double Butterburger, two orders of cheese curds, and an order of fries. Why worry about heart disease when we would be in Crystal Mountain in a mere three and a half more hours?

It turns out that Skaði had other plans for us. Soon after getting back in the car and laughing about how our gluttony could not possibly bring about any adverse climatic consequences, traffic began to slow and a light snow began to fall. More and more cars for some reason began turning into the ditch and the dividers. This did not change for some time. What did change was the intensity of the snow. Plows and salt seemed to be less of a concern for the State of Michigan than they were for us.

After Culver's, I would guess that our top speed was about 56 mph, and that was only for a brief period of time. It was mainly in the 35-45 range.

I would estimate that we saw somewhere between 30 and 40 cars and trucks in the ditches or medians on the remainder of the drive. At one point, we came upon a freshly crashed Jeep Cherokee on its side in the ditch, so we stopped to see if everyone was okay. I got out of The Blaab and yelled, "Is anyone hurt?" I took their silence to mean "no," so I headed back to The Blaab because it was pretty fucking cold. Plus, the snow was coming down pretty hard and moisture can be murder on leather seats.

Included in those 30-40 cars and trucks in ditches and medians, we had the pleasure of actually witnessing several cars in front of us go the way of the Jeep (without the flipping or the blood). It's always fun to see cars cautiously going 40 miles per hour and not attempting to change lanes slide off the road for no reason other than they didn't eat at Culver's.

When we were near Grand Rapids, Jessie asked how much longer. When I informed her that we were almost halfway there, the look of solemn defeat in her eyes is one that I hadn't seen since I proposed to her.

At one point on US-131, the snow had completely covered the highway, and it was coming down pretty hard. I was going about 35 (half the speed limit), and all of a sudden, I got blizzard-induced vertigo. I couldn't see anything except the snow coming at me and all white on the ground. I took my foot off the gas and thought, "I could be in the middle of a field right now and I wouldn't know it." Luckily, this only lasted for a few seconds, as one of those nice little metal rods with a reflector on the side of the road made a much-needed appearance.

We rolled into Crystal Mountain at about 2:30 a.m. local time, meaning that from when we got in my car in the parking garage in Chicago, it took over 8 hours to get there. Thanks, Skaði.
Skiing itself required a little more effort than usual, on account of the single-digit temperatures. I had somewhere between layers 3 and 5 layers, depending on the body part:
-Feet - thin dress socks covered by thick ski socks covered by ski boots latched into skis
-Legs/crotch - two Durex condoms (you never know) covered by boxers covered by thermal underwear covered by flannel pajama pants covered by ski pants
-Upper body - thin layer of Vaseline and sea salt covered by a thermal long sleeve shirt covered by a long sleeve Bears t-shirt covered by a zip-up fleece jacket covered by my winter parka.
-Hands - anger covered by thin gloves covered by ski gloves
-Face/head - shame covered by ski goggles covered by a knit bank robber/Palestinian terrorist-style ski mask covered by an Astros knit winter hat and a neoprene face mask covered by my jacket's hood.

If installed properly, my layering was such that not an inch of my skin was left exposed. In fact, the whole weekend, the only parts of my body that got cold were my toes and my finger tips, and even that was only after being out for several hours. Only my eyes could be seen, and usually if you had the misfortune to see them, it was already too late, as you had been lanced by one or both of my ski poles. A lot of red on the slopes this weekend.

I should also note that whenever I go skiing, I carry a pocket full of loose sand, so that I can teach lessons to those skiers, snowboarders, and lift operators who choose not to wear goggles or sunglasses.

My approach to skiing is speed based, largely a product of the Pirmin Zurbriggen school of downhill skiing. I try to get down the hill as fast as possible, striving to appear aloof and out of control, even though I am neither. Turns are only used when necessary to prevent death or bodily injury to myself or the slower bastards who do turn that I tend to fly by, leaving behind me a cloud of snow and four-letter words. Saturday night Tron subscribed to my approach, and we went as straight down Buck (one of the black diamonds -- whatever) as straight and as fast as possible. Without any interruptions, we could make it from the bottom of the ski lift and back in 5 minutes.

We managed to watch the Lindsey Lohan/Chris Pine vehicle, Just My Luck, which I think was running on a constant loop on HBO. It drew us in, held us down, and mentally touched us in places that decorum will not allow us to discuss. Saturday night we also watched Waiting for Guffman, which may or may not have been the reason we often referred to each other as D'Artagnan for the remainder of the trip.

As you might expect, the conversation at one point Saturday turned to goats. Magdog did a little online research, and we learned that a castrated goat is called a wether. Immediately, our creative juices began to flow, and we came up with what we believe to be a very commercially viable game show: Wether or Not.

The premise of Wether or Not is fairly simple. Each show opens with a shot of a bunch of goats in a pen with numbers on their backs. Then, the voice of the host is heard: "30 male goats. 15 castrated. 15 intact. Ladies and gentlemen, this . . . is Wether or Not."

Contestants would then have 5 minutes in which to put each goat into one of two categories: Wether or Not. If they finish before time is up, they ask The Farmer how many they have right. After The Farmer -- who holds a secretive position much like The Banker in Deal or No Deal, only from a silo (and he just yells down to the contestant instead of using a phone) -- tells them, then they can choose to do some rearranging with their remaining time or choose to take what they have. The contestant can repeat this step as many times as he or she pleases, until time runs out. For every correctly guessed goat, the contestant wins that goat. If they guess everything correctly, they win $800, in addition to all 30 goats. If they guess everything correctly on the first try, that figure goes up to $12.5 million.

Alternatively, if there ends up being some sort of law preventing winning livestock on game shows, then the prize scale will be as follows:
-2 correct guesses = $500
-4 = $1,000
-6 = $1,500
-8 = $2,000
-10 = $2,500
-12 = $3,000
-14 = $3,500
-16 = $4,000
-18 = $4,500
-20 = $5,000
-22 = $5,500
-24 = $6,000
-26 = $6,500
-28 = $7,000
-30 = $12.5 million

As far as hosts, obviously Bert Convy would have added a quiet dignity to the show, but I'm about 17 years too late. I was thinking maybe a J.D. Roth or a Mark DeCarlo. It might also be a good opportunity to reintroduce John Davidson to the younger generations of game show viewers. Summer Sanders or Arleen Sorkin may be added as a co-host, depending on ratings needs.
Sunday brought another full day of skiing, interspersed with a Chargers playoff loss. At night, I introduced everyone to the 1994 classic, Twin Sitters, a coming-of-age story about Peter and David Falcone, twin body builders/aspiring cooks (played masterfully by Peter and David Paul, aka The Barbarian Brothers) who end up babysitting Bradley and Steven, the bratty twin nephews of a very powerful landfill trucking executive who is mixed up with some shady characters who will stop at nothing to harm him . . . and his nephews. In the end, Peter (who's always making things) and David (who's always breaking things) and Bradley and Steven teach each other a thing or two about respect, sacrifice, self-defense, and, most importantly, bandanas.

Twin Sitters -- which until 2005 was only be available on VHS, but is now available on DVD (Dudek, I'm looking your way) -- was brilliantly written and directed by John Paragon, who you may know as Jambi from Pee Wee's Playhouse or one of the militant gay guys who steals Elaine's armoire and accosts Kramer for not wearing an AIDS ribbon on Seinfeld. He also plays the part of the dastardly loan officer who refuses to give the Falcones a small business loan to start up a restaurant, despite the fact that they brought a sackful of their delicious food to the bank. If you think Paragon is the only big-name actor or actress in Twin Sitters, maybe you need a lesson from Bradley and Steven's teacher, Miss Newman, played by the inimitable Rena Sofer, who is most famous in my mind for playing Andrea Larson, Zack's love interest in Saved By The Bell: Hawaiian Style. Frank Hillhurst is played by Dallas veteran Jared Martin. The evil Stromm is played by none other than one-time (literally) James Bond, George Lazenby. It looks like there was life after On Her Majesty's Secret Service after all! You may also recognize the sniper (one of Stromm's goons) as Danny Lee Clark, better known to you and I as Nitro from the original American Gladiators. Perhaps most impressive about Twin Sitters is that the Paul brothers wrote or co-wrote all six of the film's original songs -- "At War with the Weights," "Shut Up," "Whatcha Lookin' At?," "The Babysitters," "I Ride my Harley," and "Brothers Forever" -- and performed "Shut Up," "Whatcha Lookin' At?," and "I Ride my Harley." To view the trailer for Twin Sitters, click here.

After Twin Sitters, we popped in Better Off Dead, but only made it halfway through either because everyone was tired or because the bar had been set too high by the previous movie.
The drive back took 5 hours. Thanks go to Skaði for taking mercy on us.

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